Lucas & Arthur Jussen

The Jussen brothers make Beethoven sound cool

Monday 26 April 2010

Four **** stars!
The brothers hold their ground playing solo.

AMSTERDAM – They look like heartbreakers from a British boy band, the author of the CD booklet with Beethoven Sonatas by the brothers Arthur and Lucas Jussen, reports. And: ‘On the iPods of the young pianists you will not find one single classical note.’

The Jussen brothers make Beethoven sound cool

Blonde kids, fancy jackets. Not only the appearance of their CD – the first with Dutch pianists in the 112 years of existence of the Deutsche Grammophon label – has carefully been chosen to airplay in TV programmes focusing on media highlights. On Thursday, even before the first copy was in the shop, Dutch television presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk already announced that the Jussens got ‘gold’.

And, yes it’s true: this Beethoven CD, which was recorded last month, really sounds cool. It opens a perspective. Not on exceptional views on Beethoven. But on the talents of the two pianist brothers who are mostly seen as a duo, and who here especially hold their ground playing solo. In the subtlety of tone and peace of their internal clockwork, they both bear the stamp of their tutor Maria João Pires, the DG pianist who coproduced their recordings. But solo the boys seem to distinguish in character, the oldest one, Lucas, somewhat more sensible and touching, Arthur, the younger one, more intimate.

The repertoire has been chosen to match the brothers’ personalities. Lucas, for example, plays the Mondschein Sonata Opus 27 no 2, while Arthur plays no. 1 from the same opus 27, which does not have an epithet but surely is not less profound. Where Lucas – with exemplary respectfulness – throws himself onto the Pathétique, not so much addressing Beethoven’s dramatic psyche but the charm and enchantment of Beethoven’s pianistics, the younger Jussen kneads Beethoven’s early opus 10 no. l (among pianists also called ‘the small pathétique’) with a somewhat more openhearted and quiet play, nuancing it in every square millimetre. And isn’t this all a bit early for a 17-year-old and a chap of barely 14? No it isn’t. These Beethoven works have been played hundreds of thousands of times, but the funny thing is that this does not seem to bother the Jussens in any way. Add this to the playfulness of their pianistics, the fun of the loop and the tiny but meaningful easing, they make it not a bossy, not an angry Beethoven, but one that makes you feel happy. And the ‘bonus’ duet (eight non-pretentious variations with no opus number), too, cheers you up.

Roland de Beer

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